Leach balances football with being a dad

Head coach highly involved, would never miss children’s sports games, daughter says


EZEKIEL NELSON | The Daily Evergreen

Head Coach Mike Leach talks about the impact coaching has on his family life.

DYLAN GREENE, Evergreen deputy sports editor

Mike Leach’s life isn’t all about football; he’s a dad, too.

Leach has three daughters and one son: Kim, Kiersten, Janeen and Cody. He said it’s harder during the football season to squeeze in time to perform his other job of being a father.

“Honestly, you don’t carve out near as much quality time as you would like,” he said. “I mean, it’s nearly impossible.”

The sixth-year WSU head coach has been balancing the two jobs for about 30 years. Janeen Clark, Leach’s oldest daughter, said her dad did a pretty good job of making time for family when she was growing up.

“I remember he worked a lot, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t super involved in everything I was doing,” she said.

Clark was an All-District softball pitcher for four straight years in high school, and she said her dad helped her every step of the way. Every day, Leach would come home from coaching and spend an hour and a half practicing softball with Clark to help her hone her skills.

After each practice session, Leach would provide his daughter with constructive criticism. He would tell her what she was doing well and what she needed to improve on.

It became routine — a routine Clark tried to break by pretending to sleep when her dad came home from coaching. But Leach didn’t fall for the act, and would wake her up to go practice.

Clark said her father instilled discipline and hard work by making her practice softball every day since she was six-years-old.

“The way he is now with the players, I’ve experienced that,” she said. “He treated me a lot like his players, but he was probably easier on me, even though it didn’t feel like it.”

She said her dad was always there for support and never missed any of her or her siblings’ games unless something unavoidable came up.

Clark, a family physician, remembers watching her dad struggle to work his way up through the coaching ranks when she was a child. She said her dad sent letters to every school you could think of just to find a coaching job.

Clark said the perseverance and drive Leach had to pursue a career that he loved is something he’s carried with him throughout his entire life.

“He is motivated and ambitious. If he wants something, he’s going to figure out how to get it,” she said.

And once Leach did break through, success followed him wherever he went, she said. From Texas Tech to his current stop in Pullman, Leach has been able to utilize the resources given to him to bring football programs back to relevancy, Clark said.

“He’s getting the most out of players,” she said. “He gets a lot of talent out of players that a lot of people just overlooked.”

The mother-of-three said Leach did the same thing with her by teaching a 5-foot-5-inch, 115-pound child with no natural talent how to play softball.

As a child and an adult, Clark said her dad’s coaching responsibilities made it difficult to find a time when he wasn’t busy. But when they did, they took vacations as a family to make up for lost time.

“We’d spend in-depth family time together, where you just couldn’t get away from one another,” she said.

Leach said his children try to come visit when the Cougars are playing, but that can be tough.

“Everybody wants to come during the football season so they can see a game,” Leach said, “and that’s a lot of fun for everybody, except I have to coach a game.”

But Leach is able to find time in his hectic schedule. Leach said his favorite part of being a dad is watching his children develop into adults.

“The opportunity to see them grow up and change is really exciting because they get into their careers and have kids,” he said.

Clark said her dad doesn’t act any different from the one we see on the sidelines on Saturday’s.

“Who he is in front of the media, that’s who he is with us,” she said. “You guys are just as lucky as we are … I mean, you get it all just like we do.”

Leach, who Clark said is an avid “Real Housewives of Orange County” follower, offered some advice to dads who are trying to balance work with fatherhood.

“Be as persistent as you can and be around as much as you can because you can’t get that time back,” he said.